In celebrating Runners for Public Lands 5th anniversary this week, we sat down with some of our past and present board members. We asked them about their work with RPL, but we also asked them about their views and insights on the trail running community at large these days. You can see our questions and answers below:

RPL: What’s something you’re most proud of when it comes to RPL’s work, or what drew you to join RPL’s board?

  • Stacy Swanson: I am most proud of how RPL has established itself and found a voice as a nonprofit that cares deeply about the environment in the running community and that we “walk the talk” as an organization that strives for inclusivity in access to trails through programs, like the Everyone Runs Fund.
  • Tia Bodington: What drew me to RPL was the organization’s desire to engage on multiple levels within the running community: Supporting Race Directors with a guide for them to draw from that would help enhance sustainability at their events; intentionally supporting a diverse and inclusive community both in the members of the Board and the National Advisory Council, as well as through the Everyone Runs Fund; supporting runners with education on why it matters to protect public lands; and staying informed and active regarding government policy and bills before Congress that affect our access to trails and parks.
  • Steven Efner: RPL’s Camp + Run events have been particularly impactful over the past five years, embodying our core principles of land acknowledgment, environmental education, and community. These events not only enrich our participants’ experiences but also deepen our commitment to respectful and sustainable interactions with our natural surroundings. Another significant achievement was the formation of a national advisory council. This milestone underscored RPL’s expanding influence and appeal, marking a pivotal moment in our journey towards becoming a more recognized voice in the trail running community.
  • Laura Ochoa: Our very first camp and run in Los Pinos! I was inspired by the thought that I could combine trail running and learning/caring for the land I am running on, and meet like minded folks. It was seriously a (grassroots) dream. Everyone Runs Fund is another great moment for us, we had already identified that representation and access were pillars for our organization, but to put something into action that represents that sentiment is something so special to me (us).

RPL: What are you hopeful for when it comes to the future of trail running and/or environmental advocacy work?

  • Laura Ochoa: I would love to see us growing and expanding the Everyone Runs Fund, hosting more Camp & Runs, and more community events in communities we have “ambassadors” in.
  • Tia Bodington: I would like all runners who sign up for races to be more engaged in their responsibilities as an entrant: read the entire race website to understand the rules and the course; don’t bring excess crew or supplies beyond what is needed to finish a race; plan the race day ahead of time with a consideration to sustainability (e.g. pack your drop bags thoughtfully ahead of time instead of expecting the race to provide throw-away plastic bags on race morning to use as drop bags); pre-cycle your supplies; volunteer for at least one race per year; and expect a race to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
  • Stacy Swanson: My hope is that RPL becomes synonymous with every trail running event! That participants see our name and know that means the event is inclusive, is environmentally conscious, and is making a difference.
  • Steven Efner: Looking ahead, I am excited about the potential of the RPL Badge Program, an initiative designed to educate runners and incentivize events and clubs. This program aims to certify races, ensuring they meet our environmental and community engagement standards as outlined in Goal 2 of our strategic plan. I am also hopeful for the growth of our Ambassador program. As it extends its reach, it will not only elevate RPL’s profile but also integrate us more fully into the national conversation about trail running and environmental stewardship.

RPL: Who’s or what’s inspiring you these days?

  • Steven Efner: Currently, I am inspired by the extraordinary achievements of women ultrarunners who are breaking barriers in the sport. Jasmin Paris, the first woman to finish the Barkley Marathons, and Camille Herron, who recently set a new world record in the 6-day ultra by running 560.330 miles (901.764 kilometers), are just two examples. Their feats not only redefine what is possible but also serve as inspiration for runners and advocates alike.
  • Stacy Swanson: I was recently very inspired by reading Running While Black by Alison Mariella Désir, which was recommended by Jess Rogers to our board. That book really challenged me and my perspectives on races and inclusivity. I’m so grateful for it, and for the opportunity to think differently about ways to make running more accessible for everyone.
  • Tia Bodington: Honestly, Kat Baker and Vic Thasiah are inspiring me right now. They are working tirelessly to make our industry more sustainable and accessible. They saw a need and, instead of just hoping someone would do something, they acted to create an organization to fill that need.
  • Laura Ochoa: I am inspired by two strong Latinx/multirace women who are baddies in their own right: Dani Reyes-Acosta and Dr. Jessica Mena. Both are athletes in the trail running world. Both know how to create safe spaces. Both are great storytellers. Both are community builders and way-makers for others. It’s a privilege to know them and to have them in my circle of cheerleaders.